The new year is upon us and if you aren’t already a member you may be considering joining a gym. I know I mostly write about outdoor workouts, but I love the gym and before I started all this running stuff I was a gym fixture! So, that right there gives me semi expert status to talk to you about getting the most from your gym experience. That and I’ve been a group exercise instructor half my life so let’s just say you will find no one as credible as me (or biased since people like me are slightly dependent on members for a job)! So, back to joining a gym. I want to talk about maximizing your gym experience. This is a very popular time to join a gym, but you’ve seen the memes about joining a gym and then weeks later it’s just another bill to pay….like this…
Which really isn’t the worst idea ever….but NO…lets get you there and keep you there! I think one of the best ways to connect is through group exercise classes and its only partly (mostly) because I teach them, but really I’m going to break down the types of classes you will see on your group exercise schedule and what they really mean and help you figure out if they are for you. First let me say if you are wondering if group exercise is for you I will say if you are reading this and have a pulse then YES. There are SO MANY OPTIONS these days and if you are at a reputable gym your instructor will know how to modify the workout to fit your needs or offer other class suggestions. Second, I will fully disclose that I currently work at Lifetime in Apex and I think Lifetime is pretty amazing. Most of the group exercise descriptions I talk about will come from the classes we offer which are some of the best I’ve seen. So, let’s breakdown some of the class descriptions and later I will tell you how group exercise can keep you committed and connected.
Strength Only Classes
Strength only classes are a great place to start when finding a class anyone can do! First, we ALL can benefit from building muscular strength and endurance. I know ladies shy away from building muscle for fear of bulking up, but that’s nearly impossible and even more so in a group exercise setting. In a group exercise setting chances are you will focusing more on repetitions than power. I teach a Barbell Strength class at Lifetime where we use a (super light) barbell that you add weights to and work through every body part. We work each body part for up to 5 minutes so the focus is mostly muscular endurance. YOU control your weight selection based on goals and abilities. This is a fantastic whole body workout and great for the beginner and super fit. The other good thing at Lifetime is all the instructors follow the same format so no matter what class you attend it will be the same sequence of exercises with the instructors spin and creativity in the form of music and execution. Second, a strength class has very little learning curve. There is no complicated choreography to learn and chances are there will be little or no jumping or impact exercises. If you can lift a weight and follow a few simple cues you can do this! AND, when you are owning the workout there is always a heavier weight to lift or an extra class on the schedule. I’ve been doing barbell for years and can’t imagine ever mastering it. I can always add weight or execute the exercises better! Other strength classes may be called Simply Strength, Pump or look for strength only when searching class schedules.
Cardio + Strength Classes
These are great if you are trying to maximize your time, you like to leave a class dripping in sweat, or you have a short attention span! A class involving cardio and strength can be executed in many ways. These are mostly taught in an interval format with short bursts of cardio with strength mixed in or vice versa. You may find more compound movements like a squat into a shoulder press or a burpee. Plyometrics may also make an appearance, but again anything and everything can be modified! Depending on the workout instructors may use a step with risers, tubing, light weights or bars or simply body weight. Warning: using “just” body weight can be some of the hardest stuff you do! These classes can be very challenging, but most of the time intervals are short and recovery is built in. So, if the idea of 45 minutes of straight cardio sounds terrible an interval style class may be a great fit. I teach a Cardio No Limits class at Lifetime that is interval style. We do varying intensities of cardio with weights and recovery mixed in. I love this format and so do our bodies. Heart rate fluctuations maximize fat burning. Other descriptions to look for are 50/50, Power Hour, Tabata, and Insanity. TCX or C9 are other signature Lifetime classes that offer a great mix of cardio and strength. These classes takes you through a progression of exercises with a burst of cardio at the end of each progression. This is another class that requires special training from the instructor and will follow a similar format for every class no matter the instructor.
Cardio only classes are more steady state cardio and may include a small core or strength portion usually at the end. The classes I think of in this category are Step, Zumba, Cardio Kickboxing and Cycle. These classes will include a warmup and 30-60 minutes of straight cardio. The cardio can vary in intensity throughout that time, but most of it will be something sustainable for a longer time. Classes such as Step and Zumba may require a little more coordination, but usually once the terminology is down the moves will follow. Cycle classes also may be slightly uncomfortable on your bottom until you get used to it, but a cycle class is a great one to go at your own pace. You are usually in a dark room with complete control over your bike intensity….we will talk more about cycle later! Again, you always control the intensity, but a good class description will tell you what you need to know. Read the class descriptions carefully and modify (up or down) as needed.
Yoga and Pilates
Hands down I think Lifetime has the best yoga studio around! So much so that I will devote a whole other post to Yoga. Yoga is truly for everyone and a good gym will have lots of options for everyone. Stay tuned for more here.
This is just a synopsis of group exercise classes available. New ones are added all the time as fitness evolves so get familiar with the group exercise schedule at your facility and ask your instructor what might be a good fit for you. We will not be offended if our class isn’t for you….as much as I want to love Zumba I’m terrible at it….so we can help you decipher a better fit if that’s the case. We also have a handy little app at Lifetime that lists all the classes at each location and you can even search by cardio only, strength or a mix.
One of the other big reasons I’m so into group exercise is the connections I’ve made and I’ve seen others make. Results and kick butt workout get me in the door, but fun people keep me coming back. For more on this I asked my my friend Tricia to share her experience with group exercise classes. She is a class fixture and classes have not only improved her health and fitness, but she has made some of her closest friends….and as a fellow mom of three girls the break from the kids is also pretty sweet😉. Here is what she has to say…..